Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Funky Side of Life

Sound Directions
The Funky Side of Life
Stones Throw, 2005
Sound Directions is yet another fake band/quasi-solo project from Otis Jackson AKA Madlib, AKA Yesterday’s New Quintet AKA one of my favorite musicians ever. Like his Yesterday’s New Quintet stuff, this is basically a one-man Madlib jazz band, with some jazz musicians offering their horn skills to the mix. Unlike the Yesterday’s New Quintet stuff, Sound Directions is funkier and more upbeat (hence the title).

Funky it is. The Funky Side of Life is pure, funky, late sixties/early seventies jazz, Herbie Hancock meets Isaac Hayes meets the JBs. And it is frigging awesome. My favorite track is the upbeat “Horse”, with its lively horns and pounding rhythm, but really, all the songs on this disc are good. In a way, I couldn’t help seeing this as a hip-hop album: what madlib has basically reproduced here are the brilliant breaks and riddims that formed the backbone and blueprint of hip hop for most of its existence. That’s a testiment to how brilliant a musician Madlib is, and just what he brings to hip-hop. Madlib understands and appreciates the music behind the records and breaks, the decades of music that lead up to hip hop’s foundation.

I could tell that the album was pieced together from different performances by the same musician. There is a slight stiffness and lack of improvisation or riffing, and the songs end up slightly more subdued because of it. It’s not a big deal, but it’s noticeable, and I would love to hear Madlib form an actual band around this project. Even as it is, Sound Directions is a great disc, and yet further proof that Madlib is the man to watch.

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